NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases 2020 Annual Report

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an advisory committee that reports to NASA and Congress, issued its 2020 annual report Tuesday examining the agency’s safety performance over the past year and highlighting accomplishments, issues, and concerns.

The report highlights 2020 activities and includes observations on NASA’s: Human spaceflight evolution, Systems engineering and integration, Workforce.

Read more at: NASA

One Hull Crack Located In ISS, Another One Suspected

The specialists have discovered one more crack at the International Space Station and suspect that yet another one exists, ISS Russian Segment head Vladimir Solovyov told Rossiya-24.

“So far, we have found one place and suspect another, where as some kind of leak exists. We must bring a powerful microscope on a cargo spacecraft and use to examine this place. We are not totally certain so far,” Solovyov said.

He underscored that air loss due to the crack are insignificant.

Read more at: TASS

China’s Space Narrative

Both China and the United States have created separate parts of their military dedicated to space. Commercial, scientific, and military endeavors in space are all intimately linked, and one must understand how they are viewed to better understand how a nation might proceed in one or all of those fields. In accordance with our charter to support the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Chief of Space Operations, and other DoD and U.S. government leaders, the China Aerospace Studies Institute designed its 2020 CASI Conference around China’s space activities.

Read more at: Airuniversity


Iodine Thruster Could Slow Space Junk Accumulation

For the first time ever, a telecommunications satellite has used an iodine propellant to change its orbit around Earth.

The small but potentially disruptive innovation could help to clear the skies of space junk, by enabling tiny satellites to self-destruct cheaply and easily at the end of their missions, by steering themselves into the atmosphere where they would burn up.

The technology could also be used to boost the mission lifetime of small CubeSats that monitor agricultural crops on Earth or entire mega-constellations of nanosats that provide global internet access, by raising their orbits when they begin to drift towards the planet.

Read more at: ESA

Outer Space Is A Mess That Moriba Jah Wants To Clean Up

With each new satellite that reaches orbit, the space above our heads gets a little more congested. There are about 3,000 active satellites in use today, but that number is changing quickly, especially as companies like Starlink send up 60 small satellites in a single launch. Add the 20,000 or so bits of orbital debris that authorities are actively tracking, and the image of a limitless expanse of space above the Earth starts to feel a little different.

Moriba Jah is a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin who’s on a mission to make the stakes of orbital congestion abundantly clear.

Read more at: Verge


Virgin Orbit Launches 10 Satellites To Orbit In Landmark Test Flight

Virgin Orbit’s name isn’t purely aspirational anymore.


The California company’s LauncherOne rocket reached orbit today (Jan. 17) on its second powered test flight, a mission called Launch Demo 2. And that’s not all: The rocket also successfully deployed 10 tiny cubesats, which flew via NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program.

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To Orbit… And Beyond?

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall today announced a $6.5 million partnership with the growing South Australian space industry to send a locally made small satellite into low Earth orbit in 2022.

Marshall says SA is the first Australian state government to embark on such an undertaking.

Dubbed the SASAT1 Space Services Mission, the satellite will gather information designed to assist and improve such things as emergency services, environment and water-quality monitoring, and mining and bushfire mitigation.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine

SpaceX Acquires Former Oil Rigs To Serve As Floating Starship Spaceports

SpaceX has acquired two former oil drilling rigs to serve as these floating spaceports. Named Phobos and Deimos, after the two moons of Mars, they are currently undergoing modifications to support Starship launch operations.

SpaceX has long been hinting at future floating launch and landing sites for their Starship launch system. The super heavy lift launch vehicle will have a large blast danger area and pose noise concerns if launched frequently near populated areas. Therefore, sea launch platforms will play a key role in the launch cadence SpaceX plans to reach with Starship, including on-orbit refueling flights for deep space missions and transportation from one place to another on Earth.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight


NASA Knows What Caused The Early Engine Shutdown Of Its 1st SLS Moon Rocket During Major Test

The core stage of NASA’s giant Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket is in good shape despite its early shutdown during a crucial test this past weekend, agency officials said.


The four-engine SLS core blazed to life on Saturday (Jan. 16) during a hot-fire test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The engines were supposed to burn for 485 seconds — the duration they would fire during a moon mission — but shut down after just 67 seconds.

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Boeing Starliner Completes Software Requalification

Boeing has completed a requalification of software on its commercial crew spacecraft as it prepares to launch the vehicle on a second test flight as soon as late March.

Boeing announced Jan. 18 it completed a “formal requalification” of the software on its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. That work included reviews of the software itself as well as the processes by which Boeing developed and tested the software.

Read more at: Spacenews

Green Propellant Successfully Demonstrated On NASA Mission

A recent NASA mission successfully demonstrated the performance of a non-toxic “green” propellant, creating opportunities for its use in a wide range of future spacecraft.

NASA flew the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) spacecraft as one of the payloads on the Space Test Program 2 mission that launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy in June 2019. The spacecraft’s mission ended when it reentered in October 2020 after a series of deorbiting maneuvers.

The purpose of GPIM was to perform an in-space demonstration of a green propellant developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) called AF-M315E.

Read more at: Spacenews

Northrop Grumman Test Fires Solid Motor For ULA’s Vulcan Rocket

Northrop Grumman announced Jan. 21 it completed a static firing of the strap-on solid booster it developed for United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket.

The test fire of the extended length 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) took place on Thursday at the company’s facility in Promontory, Utah.

Northrop Grumman in August completed the first ground test of the GEM 63XL. The motor in August fired at a cold temperature in a qualification test. This latest test was at a hot temperature to validate the motor for flight.

Read more at: Spacenews


Speech by Commissioner Thierry Breton at the 13th European Space Conference

Dear Ministers and representative of Member States, Dear Sophie Wilmes, Dear Manuel Heitor, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Dear friends from the space sector, Ladies and Gentlemen,2 020 has been an extraordinarily turbulent year, with the worst worldwide health crisis in the last century. We had to adapt to these new realities in our personal and professional lives. And the crisis hit every sectors, the aerospace industry included. But Europe – it is my strong belief – has shown that it can take the necessary decisions to ensure our collective resilience.If 2020 was the year of solidarity, 2021 will be the year of trust. Trust in our ability to emerge stronger from this crisis, act on the lessons learnt and put forward a new vision.

Read more at: EC Europe

Space Challenges For President Biden: Four Issues For The Next Four Years

As Joe Biden begins the first year of his presidency, there is still much we don’t know about where he and his vice president, Kamala Harris, stand on major issues in civil and national security space. The pandemic and economic recovery are sure to drive Biden’s initial agenda.

There are, nonetheless, several key space issues the new administration will have to address. NASA’s Artemis program is now unlikely to meet its 2024 human landing goal, giving the administration the opportunity to revisit the program while enhancing the agency’s Earth science work.

Read more at: Spacenews

A Moon Rock in the Oval Office As Biden Appointees Arrive at NASA

Just hours after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States, NASA announced the arrival of three Biden appointees along with confirmation that Steve Jurczyk is now Acting Administrator.  He succeeds Jim Bridenstine, who posted a heartfelt farewell video.  But perhaps the biggest space news today is that Biden has a Moon rock in the Oval Office.

Today’s inauguration certainly was unlike any that came before. 

Read more at: Spacepolicy online


Biden’s Defense Nominee Embraces View Of Space As A Domain Of War

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for defense secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Jan. 19 that China is the United States’ “most concerning competitor” and in written testimony identified space as a growing national security concern.

“If confirmed, I will ensure the space domain is carefully considered across the range of upcoming strategic reviews,” Austin said in a statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Read more at: Spacenews


Outgoing NASA Chief Jim Bridenstine Calls For Unity In Space Exploration Pursuits

Like its parent nation, NASA needs to prioritize bridging divides, the agency’s outgoing chief said.


Jim Bridenstine, who served as NASA administrator from April 2018 through today’s (Jan. 20) inauguration of President Joe Biden, said that his successor should strive to bring the agency together as much as possible. 

“As far as, like, what advice I could give to the next administrator, it is to find wherever there are divisions and eliminate them,” Bridenstine told reporters during a teleconference yesterday (Jan. 19).

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